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Showing posts from June, 2008

What Makes A 4 Star Hotel?

My recent trip took me to a 4 star hotel, the Westin, in Chicago. Thanks to Priceline and William Shatner, I was able to stay here for about the price of a 2 star hotel. I am often amused at the little touches that the hotel uses to distinguish themselves, catering to their expected clientele. For instance, the shower. I have seen hotels tout the quality of their showers, and, specifically, their showerheads. Some actually offer them for sale. The water pressure, the rainfall, the "oxygenation"...the list goes on and on. Imagine my amusement at what greeted me at the Westin: Yup, if one is good, two must be better, right? Truth to be told, it was a good shower, but the sheer audacity of it practically brought me to hilarity. But the coup de grace was the in-room coffeemaker. Yes, you know this one. You wake up, want a cup, and stumble over to the scaled-down, no frills Mr. Coffee lookalike to pop in a pod of Maxwell House that is inevitably too cold or too bitter. But a 4 sta

Doing The Right Thing

I often use this space to vent about companies that simply don't get it. Every so often, however, there is one that not only gets it, they get it better than I do. Let me tell you about one: eBags . Don't know eBags? They are just what they sound like: a website solely devoted to selling luggage. Once thought of as a punchline to the great dotcom boom, like, they were a highly specialized site selling only one thing at inexpensive prices. Unlike Amazon, who was able to make this model succeed with books and music for their low price points, eBags was widely assumed to be a flash in the pan that would die with the rest of the overspecialized e-commerce sites that were overly rife at the turn of the century. But, led by a dynamic CEO, and a savvy marketing strategy, they not only survived but thrived. In recent years, they have augmented the hundreds of brands of bags they sell with their own. Imagine a team of people, only focused on selling bags, putting together piece

Only in Marin

A street fair in San Anselmo. In addition to corn dogs and fried calamari, only in Marin do you also get dim sum.

Paperless Apple Stores

Great experience at my local Apple Store last night. I had to get some accessories for my iPhone, so I picked up my item, and headed to the cashwrap/Genius Bar. An intelligent employee saw my purposeful stride, and stepped out from behind the counter to ask if I was all set; I said yes, and he whipped out his PDA, accepted my card, scanned the barcode of my item, and we were all set. This experience is not new; Apple has intelligently deployed these mobile checkout units for some time now. What happened next was a delight: the employee handed me my card back, and asked if I would prefer a printed receipt, or would I like it emailed to me? I happily replied that email was preferable, and he looked at his screen. "Well, looks like we don't have your email address on file; if you give it to me, I'll make sure we can send this and all future receipts to you." I did, and he associated it with the credit card I used. Within moments, my receipt appeared as a PDF attachment t

Running Out Of Gas

Years ago, a fledgling cable network, The Discovery Channel, was desperate to draw viewers. Their traditional focus of science-based programming was only getting the PBS-crowd, and not even as many, so they expanded their breadth by moving into the occasional documentary. In one, they followed a father and son in upstate New York who were making a family go of building custom motorcycles. The documentary focused on the mix of combustible personalities, how hard it was for family to work together, but how they overcame differences and leveraged their individual strengths to produce a uniquely American piece of craftsmanship. It was a hit, and the network jumped on it, turning the profile into a full series, American Chopper . What made the series work in the early years were the absolutely climactic battles between Paul Jr., who's innovative designs and creative focus were breathtaking, and Paul Sr., who overcame personal demons to forge a business, but longed to marry his metalwork

Make Your Own Ad

Slate V , the video version of Slate Magazine , has a remarkable profile of Spot Runner , a site that allows you to make personalized television ads for $500. Using a mixture of stock video clips and professional voiceovers, you can easily produce ads designed to evoke just what you are looking to convey, complete with professional messaging. Want to get elected? Choose one of the political ads: from attack ads to messages of hope and change. The disturbing part of this is just how generic the ad space has become for these specific issues, and how this "cut and paste" approach can now be so effective in today's market. Think of the great Apple ads (Think Different, 1984), or the classic political ads ( Daisy , A Man From Hope): these are all replaced with these slick, professional and utterly effective ads that any candidate can run. No ad agencies, no creative: choose your theme, add some details, and enter your credit card. It's either a brave new world, or a sure

NBA Championship Joy: courtesy of JetBlue

Tonight, the Boston Celtics won their 17th championship, after 22 years since the last time a banner was hoisted to the Garden rafters. And, for the first time in about 17 of those years, I actually watched it happen, and it's all thanks to JetBlue. Let me explain. First, some history: I grew up in Boston. The Celtics were my first sports love. I had (and still have) no interest in baseball, so the Red Sox were worthless to me. The Bruins were fun, but only in person, and it was clear after Bobby Orr retired, there was hardly any joy in the game. The Patriots? Well, they were always bums (except for Steve Grogan), so not much joy there. But like so many sons, it was my father that brought me the joy of the first team to follow. He huddled around a 9" black and white TV, every game, screaming at the Celtics like a coach. As a young boy, he taught me what to look for, what to watch. In short, I was hooked. Later, as a young man, I watched the great Larry Bird era start. As I gre

RT To Help Ressurect TSI?

Should have put a BluBet on it. RT returns to the remains of the company he founded : "James Salter, head of Hilco Consumer Capital, a Chicago company that late last month agreed to pay $49 million for the remains of Sharper Image, says he has approached [Richard] Thalheimer about working as a product consultant. "I think he'd be an excellent guy to bring back," says Salter. Thalheimer says he's considering the offer--but only if he can keep running Richardsolo ." Let the games begin. And let's hope for the great second act that only Richard can bring.

Hush Hush

I do like Google's IM venture, Google Talk , for a number of reasons: it's built on open standards platforms (Jabber), it allows clever integration with Gmail, and it allows VOIP in a straightfoward, no nonsense fashion that Yahoo, MSN, and AOL seem to eschew. However, I don't use the Google Talk client; instead, I use Trillian , a multi-IM application, allowing me to be on AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google Talk all at once (disclosure: I am actually beta testing Trillian Astra , the next version.) Today, I noticed in a chat with my buddy Tim a new line that appeared in our chat log: Intriguing! I investigated further, and found this link , and it's explanation: " What does it mean to go off the record? We know that sometimes, we don't want a particular chat, or chats with a specific person, to be saved. Most existing IM services give no indication of whether the person you're chatting with is saving your conversation. But when chatting in Google Talk or Gmail, y

Rapture Averted: JesusPhone2 Fails To Appear

Let me start by saying that Apple is the kind of company you love. When they swing, they swing for the fences. Sure, they may strike out from time to time (Uh... Mac Cube ? Newton?), but more often than not they connect, and they send it out of the park. Think of the iMac, OS X, The Powerbook. But go beyond: think of Apple retail stores and how they redefine shopping, or the marketing campaign that started it all, Think Different . The iPhone was, arguably, their greatest hit to date, and millions of customers later, we hungry hordes were desperate for another home run. Waaay back in February, the rumors started of an iPhone software update that would allow you to run applications on the JesusPhone. When Apple scheduled a keynote in March, it was all but done. And then the first letdown of the young iPhone's existence was revealed: rather than keep to the previously inviolable mantra of Apple's "Announce today, get today," His Steveness took the stage that rainy March

Back Inside

Good news today for NFL Films fans like me. Courtesy of the always-entertaining MJD , word comes that the venerable Inside The NFL that has aired on HBO almost since its inception, has risen from the dead . For those that were not aware, this past season was the last of the highlight show's long run, leaving Dan Marino, Bob Costas, Cris Carter, and Chris Collinsworth out of a job. Of course, they had those cushy Sunday morning gigs to fall back on, and Costas is practically his own brand by now, so not too many tears. But Showtime wisely recognized the built-in audience, and swept in to revive it. No word yet if the staff is back, too, but one can hope that the NFL Films staff members that were laid off as a result of HBO's earlier decision will be back. How about it, Dan? Kick in a little of that salary?

Mmm...smells like bacon

I have a jar of bacon jam on my desk (thank you, Morgan!), three bottles of bacon salt on the way, and now David offers me the ultimate daily treat: I am in hog heaven.

Doghouse Autopsy

"The new series on Animal Planet: Canine CSI."

So much said in so few words

As seen on my screen today.Have truer words ever been said?

The 5th Best Indiana Jones Movie

Last night, I finally had a chance to check out the new Indiana Jones movie, after months of anticipation. Let's set the stage: I grew up with Indiana Jones. 27 years ago, this movie burst on the scene, with Han Solo himself finally getting a movie all of his own. And what a movie! A tribute to the classic 1930's serials, with Spielberg's trademark action and humor, and Lucas' soaring was like the all-star game of moviedom. Like all others, I was hooked on the Fedora and whip. We suffered through the next prequel (I maintain that no prequels have ever, nor may ever, succeed on the big screen...but that's a blog for another day), and were rewarded with the masterful final movie, eight years after it began. And then Indiana Jones was gone...until last weekend, where, defying all odds of age, fatigue, the master Raider unfurled his whip, and swung back into our stunned and delighted hearts. There is much to like about this film, primarily that it e